Pubs are a great part of Australian culture, egalitarian spaces where tradies and CEOs drink side-by-side and everyone feels at home. In the old days there was a public bar for the blokes and a ladies’ lounge for the gals, with no cross-pollination. Today’s public bars welcome anyone who enjoys gaming and sports and ladies’ lounges have largely been replaced by bistros for families and those after a quieter meal. While pub bistros in general are upping their game, here are five of my favourite country pubs where the food and drinks are well worth travelling for.
The Rockley Pub Rockley
Head up Bells Line of Road and through the Blue Mountains to the tiny village of Rockley for a warm welcome at Matt Moran’s country pub! Pub classics, like great local steaks and an excellent burger, sit alongside house-made focaccia and asparagus with smoked salmon and horseradish. There’s comforting desserts like fruit crumble and excellent local wines, and when dinner’s done, head upstairs to a comfy bed for the night.
The Royal Richmond Hotel Richmond
Karen and Peter Wynne have turned this historic pub at the foot of the Blue Mountains into a great destination for locals and Sydney day-trippers, with a strong focus on fabulous local produce and the combined talent of Todd Garratt (ex-Fish Butchery and Wine Library) and Jo Ward (ex-Bistro Rex and Bloodwood). The dry-aged steaks are great and the carved ham and smoked pineapple pizza has changed my mind about pineapple on pizza!
The Argyle Inn Taralga
I love the mismatched silver and china in the charming old dining room and the excellent value 3-course shared menu served Thursday–Saturday at Hugh Wennerbom’s country pub. A selection of appetisers to start – maybe terrine, gravlax, vegetable antipasti – mains featuring largely local produce change every service, as do desserts such as chocolate semifreddo with blackberries. The more casual bar menu of burgers, pastas and risotto rocks too! Book early to snag one of the eight guest rooms upstairs!
Willow Tree Inn Willow Tree
All the dry-aged beef at Graze Restaurant in this Upper Hunter pub, owned by the Hanna family, is from their nearby Colly Creek Farm. Wood, dark leather and mirrors set the scene along with great steak tartare and cold cuts. Steak and chips follow, accompanied by a United Nations of sauces, from nam jim and chimichurri to the more trad café de Paris and pepper. Chocolatey marshmallowy s’mores are a must for dessert. I love the olde worlde charm of Cottage 24 across the road too!
The Catho Pub Catherine Hill Bay
Much more casual than the others, but still worth a mention and a detour on your way between Sydney and the north, is this rustic pub in the historic old mining village of Catherine Hill Bay. Join locals on the covered back terrace for a cold one and classic pub fare of burgers, schnitzels and the like.
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